Sunday, July 18, 2010

Snacking at the Summer Night Market

Last night we went to the summer night market in Richmond to eat some of the mostly Asian, street vendor-style food. The rest of the market is mostly the kind of tacky stuff you'd expect to find; cell phone cases, knock-off sunglasses, etc. but the food stall section makes the trip worth it. Other people definitely felt the same way considering it was, at times, almost impossible to push through the crowds forming around popular food vendors and there were lots to choose from.

The ubiquitous "meat on a stick" was a popular option offered by several vendors. The one we chose had a pretty big crowd of customers waiting and its operators were using microphone headsets to communicate with one another and shout to the crowd. We tried beef, chicken and spicy lamb - all delicious, perfectly grilled and generously seasoned.

Other than the traditional tako (octopus), this takoyaki stand offered fillings of squid, scallop and shrimp. We chose half octopus and half scallop and though they were nicely crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, we had a bit of difficulty telling them apart.

More fried stuff and skewers, we decided to try the gyoza, which is never usually much to look at and I'm still not sure what the filling consisted of (mostly vegetable) but it seemed really fresh. Gyoza is often served with a sauce made with soy and rice vinegar and it seemed like these were brushed with a similar sauce while being grilled so even without a dipping sauce, that flavor was still present.

We couldn't look in any direction without seeing someone eating one of these towers of unfurling, sliced potato; some stacked like thick potato chips, others like a corkscrew spiral. We didn't get around to trying one so I don't know if they taste as good as they look (the novelty is definitely part of the appeal) and we had other, more pressing food priorities to attend to.

Taiyaki! This is probably the main reason we come to the night market, I don't know anywhere else that makes it fresh to order which is a shame because it's something that really needs to be enjoyed while it's hot and still crispy. Taiyaki is pretty much like a fish shaped waffle with a sweet filling - in this case either chocolate, red bean or custard cream. We tried all three and even though red bean is sort of the traditional filling, the custard ones were a surprise favorite for us. It's sad to have to go all the way to the night market for fresh taiyaki; if there was a stand in Vancouver it would be really popular and we'd probably keep them in business year round (especially in the winter when there are usually only chestnut stands). Hopefully someone wondering what kind of new food stall to open is reading this, haha...

"Deep Fried Cheesecake" served out of a bus; we really wanted to try this because it sounds so decadent and potentially a genius enhancement to cheesecake (or potentially vomit-inducing). By the time we were considering this for a dessert, we were undeniably full from everything else which is probably for the best because they were sold out of a lot of flavors anyway. Still curious though, maybe next time! We were also too full to hit the very tempting "Japanese Crepes" stand.

Toward the end of the night, some vendors started lowering their prices to help alleviate themselves of a seemingly infinite supply of meat skewers or whatever other various goodies were still efficiently being churned out.

After all that fried and salty food we were really thirsty, so this watermelon slush made with slices of fresh watermelon was especially refreshing. The summer night market is perfect for a night of snacking if you can stand to wade through the crowds and travel to its not so convenient location in a corner of Richmond. There's so much stuff to eat that multiple visits are necessary (unless you really want to test the limits of your stomach) so we'll probably go back again before it shuts down in a few months. It's annoying that we can only really find this kind of thing on weekends in the summer (there are other night markets but they're even further away) when any of these stalls would be a welcome everyday replacement for the hot dog stands that are pretty much the only standard street food fare in most of the city.

Summer Night Market on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Taiyaki! There is a permanent food stand in Surrey near the Guildford Mall Korean Grocery store up the road from the Sheraton hotel. It's a Hmart I think. The nice Korean lady is always there preparing piping hot fish waffles with tasty fillings, I especially like the blueberry or the red bean.

I disagree that more of these types of street foods should replace normal hotdog stands. Otherwise what reason would there be to go to the night market? =) It's the unique atmosphere and crowds that add to the experience imho. It's a pity some of these vendors haven't transferred to a food court though, imagine a food court with freshly prepared takoyaki, would be heaven.

Avoid the sumo burger stand though, it was like two heavy hockey pucks of rice sandwiched with some filling. I really disliked it. The rice was so compacted and heavy tasting. Also the rollies while novel, really at the end of the day its just mini-egg rolls, try the free sample but skip it. Too overpriced.

Cory said...

Thanks for the heads up in regard to the taiyaki place but I think I've only been to Surrey once or twice, I'll try to remember it if I'm ever out there again.

I think there'd still be a reason to go to the night market if this street food was available elsewhere; as you said, it's got a unique atmosphere and it's a different experience than just buying food. A few takoyaki or meat skewer stands downtown would probably be wildly appreciated. The night market is only on weekends and only for a few months, would be nice if we could get this kind of stuff all year round and more conveniently!